The local economy is improving, and as a result, Newton schools appear in better shape than they thought they were a few months ago. At Monday's USD 373 school board meeting, board members agreed to give most staff members raises.

Superintendent Dr. Deb Hamm told the board the district is ending the year in good shape. More taxes, including delinquent taxes, are coming in than expected, and as a result the district has some more money. They had earlier feared they would have to cut more than $500,000 from the budget for next year, but those cuts apparently will not be needed.

The school board anticipates getting a proposed budget to consider at its meeting next month.

The raises will offset $36,000 in health insurance costs increases. It will also help take care of rising workers compensation rates, so employees may not see very much of a raise in actual money they take home.

Last year teachers received a two-percent overall increase, but classified employees received a 1.6 percent increase. The move Monday levels those increases.

According to material released by the district, administrators, unlike teachers, do not have the option to move annually for steps and columns. Steps on the administrators' salary schedule only allow for movement every four years.

Here are what the raises were that were approved.

A ten-cents per hour increase for classified employees, which is a one-percent raise. The total cost is estimated at about $50,000.

A one-percent increase, or $200, for building administrators. The total cost to the district will be $18,723.

An increase of 1.37 percent for Brian Engelken and Joanelle Lucas.

Raises for administration included $5,000 for Dr. Russell Miller, $3,800 for Mitchell Neuenschwander, Mary Beasley Sheila Wendline and Stacy Smith, as well as a $2,700 increase for Mary Beasley.